Monthly Archives: February 2020

Can love endure forever?

Image result for royalty free picture of college classroomRepetition aids memory. I leaned from side to side, then twisted left and right, trying to do so unobtrusively. It had been a long day of sitting at work. These three hours of class made it even longer. I took a sip of lukewarm coffee and popped another peanut M and M in my mouth. The freedoms students exercised in class puzzled me when I first returned to school three years earlier, but now I quietly ate snacks during lecture, too.

How I loved school! This Tuesday night class on human learning was my favorite. I hastily put the styrofoam cup down and picked up my pen when I heard, “Now, this is something you can make good use of yourself. Repetition is the key to getting information into long-term memory. So when you study . . .” The professor kept going but I heard that one phrase over and over. That was many years ago, but I hear it now whenever I work on Bible memory. It helps me persist in the necessary repetitions.

God knows how memory works. Obviously, God knows how memory works. God not only tells us to impress His commandments on our children by talking about them when we “. . . sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7, NIV) but He also tells us to keep them where we will see them all day long as we go about our daily life (Deuteronomy 6:8.) I say, thank the Lord for index cards and sticky notes!

Two key facts about God. Psalm 136 teaches us two facts about God. [1] God is good, and [2] His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1, NIV). When I first began pondering these two truths, I thought they were in Psalm 118. I was driving and so could not access my Bible. When I got home, I saw it was Psalm 136 and that the phrase repeated 26 times is “His love endures forever.” The “God is good” phrase is only stated in the first verse of this psalm.

His love endures forever. It is comforting to know that God’s perfect love will last forever, especially when we read I Corinthians and see what God means when He says love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:4-8a, NIV).

We would do well to take each of those phrases and use them as the responding phrase in Psalm 136. For example, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His patience endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His patience endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His patience endures forever.”

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Gold NuggetThe phrase “His love endures forever” is repeated 26 times. I have found that I must repeat the phrases of a Bible verse or passage I am memorizing MANY times. Repeating a nugget of truth 26 times is a small price to pay to acquire pure, refined gold straight from the hand of our loving and all-powerful God.

What does God want us to remember? It is my opinion that this must be one of the things God wants us to remember most of all, this unbelievable fact that His love will last forever, that He will never stop loving us. If you have been privileged to study the Bible even a little you know God repeats His fundamental truths many times, in multiple ways. Yet no other phrase is repeated so many times so close together. I think I should pause and think about that!

God IS good. As a believer, it hurts when I hear people disrespect God and when I hear people doubt His goodness. The enemy has attacked God’s goodness from the beginning. He successfully tempted Eve in Eden by lying about God’s goodness. (Genesis 3:4-5). He does the same thing today. How often does someone say there is no hope for mankind or that, if there is “a god”, then He cannot be good because He lets so many bad things happen. Lies, all lies.

How do we fight against that hateful darkness of the enemy? With the Sword of Truth! Look up scriptures about the goodness of God, ponder and memorize as many as you can, to get them down deep into your own spirit, and then speak the truth, with love (Ephesians 4:15) when you hear our wonderful Father in heaven slandered.

God hears our cries for mercy. I am so grateful to have my own copy of the Bible (actually, several translations!) so that I can write in it like the textbook it is. When I was in school, I underlined, drew arrows and brackets, made notes in margins, highlighted . . . anything to enhance understanding. In my NIV Bible, Psalm 118 is well-marked. It sums up the goodness of God and His enduring love in rescuing me from a season of deep depression.

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Jesus rescuing Lamb“I love the LORD, for He heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned his ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the LORD: ‘O LORD, save me!’ The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, He saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.” (Psalm 116:1-7, NIV)

Fellow pilgrim, has God been good to you? Has He proven to you that “His love endures forever”? Then thank Him and tell someone else! He more than deserves our highest praise and gratitude. . . for God “ . . . is good and His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1, NIV)

God’s Elixir of Gratitude

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Memories of gratitude. 62 degrees. No humidity. Sun beginning to set. A band of soft gray and beige and pink puffs stretches low above the horizon. I pause and stop to say “Thank You, Lord. Those are such beautiful colors and such pretty patterns.”

As I come around the corner of the building, loaded down with grocery bags, headed to my unit, suddenly I remember another early evening, rounding the corner of a building, loaded down with grocery bags, heading toward home. That evening was thirty plus years ago, when my daughter was 12.

Sharon had, as usual, phoned me when she got home from school. I had said I would pick up some videos after I got groceries and be home by six. A three-day weekend was coming up, for both of us. To help offset the fallout of my single parent finances, I made a celebration out of anything I possibly could. Our VCR player got lots of use as we curled up together under a blanket on the couch and ate popcorn. The hormonal storms of adolescence still a ways away, we had many sweet and tender times just being together that year.

I had not told her I would also get a box of fried chicken, a rare indulgence for our little family of two. As I rounded the corner that evening, toting the groceries, video and chicken, I felt an almost palpable reword sense of good will toward the whole world. I was simply grateful down to my bones that I could provide food, and even special treats like the fried chicken, and a few hours of entertainment that would delight my daughter. And I was beginning to finally feel secure in the job I had begun a few weeks earlier. The job had better benefits and we had health insurance now.

I rounded the corner, stood on the tiny stoop and, since I did not have a free knuckle, banged the bags against the door. Almost instantly, the door opened, and she reached to relieve me of some of the bags.

“Oh, Mama! You got three videos! And you got chicken, too!”

Happy tears blurred my vision as I looked into her bright eyes.

Grateful for feeling “Not bad”. Now, the bags looped around my fingers were cotton mesh, not the environmentally-unfriendly plastic of 30 years ago, and rather than anticipating a deeply delightful evening with my daughter, I was heading to my beloved rescued Tonkinese and my beloved Heavenly Father.

“Thank You, Lord, that I feel so much better today. Thank You that my eyes are not so swollen and I can breathe easily.”

Last night, at nine, I had had an anaphylactic reaction, the first in many years, so many that I no longer carried an epi pen. It had been a wild night, walking to the car with eyes swelling, tears gushing, throat swelling, driving to an urgent care clinic, only to find it closed then driving across town, then answering questions and signing papers at the front desk while thinking I might pass out, finally being given two shots and a breathing treatment, waiting three hours at the facility, then driving home, getting into bed at 5 a.m.

So, I was very grateful when I woke at one, feeling almost normal. It felt like a holiday to just get out and see the sun as I drove to the grocery and library. One blessing of trials is it feels so good when they are done!

“But, Lord,” I reflected as I put bananas on the countertop and stacked cat food in the cabinet, “help me be genuinely thankful all the time, not just when You have delivered me from a problem.”

Image result for Free Clip Art of TambourineI believe God loves it when we rejoice with Him when trials have ended and He has given a great victory, like when Miriam led the Israelites in singing on the other side of the Red Sea. Miriam took a timbrel and sang, “Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously and is highly exalted; the horse and rider He has throw into the sea,” (Exodus 15:21, AMPC).

However, the Bible makes it plain we are to be thankful ALL the time. Why?

An attitude of gratitude is good medicine!  The dictionary defines elixir as a “magical or medicinal potion.” Another definition is “a particular type of medicinal solution.” ( Like everything God tells His followers to do, being thankful is good for us. (“All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful to those who keep the demands of His covenant. Psalm 25:10, NIV). Being thankful is so powerful it does seem magical. No wonder God says to “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:18 NIV).

Why are we to do that? Two, of many reasons, are:

[1] God “. . . is good; for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever.” (Psalm 136). Thanking God, all the time, is simply the right thing to do.

[2] It brings us into His presence. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4, NIV)

Image result for royalty free picture of neglected gardenCultivating the garden of your heart. I have learned, the hard way, that a constant attitude of gratitude is essential for me. Unless I am actively thankful for God’s blessings, the enemy soon steals my peace. I tried, for years, to be consistently thankful but it was like the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. Some seeds of gratitude I was trying to plant never got down deep into my heart, some landed in areas of my heart that were filled with the rocks of envy, jealousy and resentment, and some seeds of gratitude grew for a while but then worry about things of this world choked out the gratitude.

I finally saw that only God could remove the rocks, weeds and thorns. I had to ask Him to show me where the ugly things were, and then do my part. I saw that only God could provide good seed, and that I had to sow then water it by keeping His Word in my mind. I saw only God could make it grow, and that my part was to wait patiently, with hope, and to “Above all else, guard [my] heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV). After much work, for a long time, God did change my attitude, but it was a process of cultivation, like developing a garden.

Image result for Royalty Free Clip Art Of Gardening Tools And Seeds'The process of cultivation. To cultivate the good fruit of thankfulness in my heart, I had to:

[1] Clear my heart of rocks, weeds, and thorns and break up the soil. In ancient times, through the prophet Jeremiah, God pleaded with His people to return to Him, put away their idols and “break up your ground left uncultivated for a season, so that you may not sow among thorns.” (Jeremiah 4:3b, AMPC).

Father, help me root out the thorns of ungratefulness, bitterness, envy, jealousy, and resentment. Use Your Word to reveal the hidden thoughts and intents of my heart that I cannot perceive so I may confess, repent and be forgiven. (Hebrews 4:12)

[2] Plant good seeds. Galations 6:7 (NIV) tells us “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows”.

Father, You have provided all the seeds of truth that we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3). Help me sow bountifully so that I may reap bountifully from Your Word. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

[3] Water, watch and wait. Growing anything takes time but God helps us as we seek to grow, and He finishes what He starts. As Paul said “And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up until the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.” (Philippians 1:4, AMPC)

Father, help me be patient as You do what only You can do. (Revelations 4:11)

[4] Maintain the garden. Maintaining a garden requires regular watering, weeding, and removal of pests.

Father, help me always water the garden of my heart with the Living Water of Your Word (John 4:13-15). Show me the weeds and thorns (Matthew 13:7) and help me to take “. . . the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards [of our love], for our vineyards are in blossom (Solomon 2:14, AMPC)

Dear friend, as we both strive to become more grateful, I can only remind us both of God’s promise in 2 Corinthians 9:10-11:

“And [God] Who provides seed for the sower and bread for eating will also provide and multiply your [resources for] sowing and increase the fruits of your righteousness [which manifests itself in active goodness, kindness, and charity]. (AMPC)

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The riptide of His love

Image result for royalty free picture of child in father's arms “You will be safe in His arms.” “You will be safe in His arms, you will be safe in His arms. The hands that hold the world are holding your heart. This is the promise He made. He will be with you always. When everything is falling apart, you will be safe in His arms.“ (Lyrics by Phil Wickham)

As I listened, I curled into the corner of the couch, next to the lamp and the radio, pulling the cotton throw over my bare feet, as I sipped my coffee. The air was pleasantly cool as a gentle rain washed the trees and bushes and grass outside in the darkness.

“Thank You, Lord. That is exactly what I needed this morning, to remind myself that You love me, that You listen to me and that You will take care of me.”

Yesterday had been an all-day, all-out fight for faith as a dear, dear friend was re-admitted to the hospital, my beloved Barny cat and I waited four hours in the veterinarian’s office, and I pondered the latest foot problem. All day, by grace I prayed and quoted Scriptures to myself. All day though, I felt shaky. I kept reminding myself that God would, in time, calm the storm in my heart.

Last night, still feeling shaky, I went to bed and by grace slept well. This morning, that song stirred the undercurrent of His love running deep in my heart. Emotions settled and thoughts about God and His countless instances of tender, loving care took over. Then, like a soft blanket, came that blessed, unutterable peace (Philippians 4:7).

We all need an undercurrent of His love. Because life is filled with troubles, we humans need the awareness of His love as the bedrock of our hearts and minds. We need that awareness as our default mode, a network of interconnected thoughts and feelings to which our mind automatically returns when it is not specifically involved otherwise.

Three hearts stay on my kitchen countertop. The words written on them say “God made me, and He loves me. God listens to me, and He loves me. God takes care of me, and He loves me.” These truths remind me of Scripture passages about God’s love that I have meditated upon for many, many weeks. This undercurrent of feeling loved and cared for, personally, by God has become my default mode of mind. It is one way Jesus helps me overcome the troubles in my world. (John 16:33)

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Laptop How to change your default. How do we get to the place so that even when life thunders, we remember God’s love and remain secure? By doing the hard work of renewing our mind, in other words, by changing our default mode of mind and heart (Romans 12:21).  It is a simple process.

[1] Look diligently into the Word for ourselves to find the truths we personally need. (Proverbs 2:1-11)

[2] Keep those truths in our thoughts constantly (Deuteronomy 6:7).

The process is simple. However, it takes hard work, and it takes time. So be patient, like a farmer tending a crop. (James 5:7) In due time, you will be rewarded. (Hebrews 11:6)

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Crashing WavesHow does an undercurrent work? In reading about undercurrents, I learned that they are currents flowing under the surface of a large body of water. A riptide is a powerful, fast-moving undercurrent flowing at right angles to the shore. I like to think of God’s love as a powerful undercurrent, a riptide, that we can, by choice, dive into and that will carry us out to clear, open water, far from the crashing waves. Once we have stored up His truth within our hearts, that undercurrent, that default mode of mind and heart, is firmly established (Deuteronomy 28:9). In darkest trial, we will feel safe, in His everlasting arms.

“There is no one like the God of Israel. He rides across the heavens to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor. The eternal God is your refuge, and His everlasting arms are under you. He drives out the enemy before you, saying, “Destroy them!” So Israel will live in safety, prosperous Jacob in security, in a land of grain and new wine, while the heavens drop down dew. How blessed you are, O Israel! Who else is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your protecting shield and your triumphant sword! Your enemies will cringe before you, and you will stomp on their backs.” (Deuteronomy 33:26-29, NLT)

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Start your day feeling loved

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I lay still a moment in the thick silence and darkness, pulling the comforter up to my chin, remembering how my father always rose at five, in pre-dawn darkness like this, and left the house at five-thirty for the rock mine. When I was older and needed extra time to study, he woke me up, too. On those cherished mornings, I shuffled between sink and stove, making toast and the one cup of instant coffee I was allowed, while Daddy sat at the table, skimming headlines and perusing the sports page.

We turned on just the stove light on those mornings.   The bedrooms were at the other end of the hall, but the hall was short so the overhead light would have shone under closed doors and awakened my Mom and my two brothers. Alone in the dimly-lit kitchen, it was like Daddy and I were spotlighted on a stage, the rest of the house hidden in the uniform anonymity of darkness, like a darkened theater, present but possessing no possibility of affecting the actors on the stage.

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For those few minutes, I had Daddy all to myself, and we two, who were more alike than I would realize for many years, sat in a silence as companionable as it was absolute, the only sounds an occasional gentle snap as Daddy straightened the newspaper or a quiet slurp as I took a prolonged sip of my precious one cup of coffee.

All too soon on those mornings, he kissed my cheek then was at the door where he’d left his work boots, coated with lime rock, the night before. Then he was gone, leaving me in the spotlighted kitchen, alone but feeling special and somehow right with the world, having already achieved an early start to my day, just like him. I also felt loved, I felt safe, and I felt secure, like I always did when Daddy was home.

Whether a lark (those who are alert during the day, like me and my Dad) or an owl, those who prefer being awake at night, we all need to start our day feeling loved, feeling safe, and feeling secure. Solitary time with God is the best way.

Feeling loved. God tells us to start our day with our minds on His commandments. In Deuteronomy 6:7 He says “Impress them (meaning His commandments, which He just talked about in verse 6) on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you rise up. . . (NIV).“

When I wake up, if I start to worry about the day or week ahead, I think about all the ways He has fulfilled His many promises to keep me in His peace (Isaiah 26:3, Psalm 29:11, Psalm 76:3, Matthew 28:11-30). That helps me start my day feeling loved, as I remind myself that God has always taken care of me. Just thinking about Daddy made me feel good because he was consistently loving, tender and caring toward me. Pausing to think about God makes me feel good.

Image result for royalty free picture of sunriseFeeling safe. It is natural to look toward the sky on awakening. If we pause long enough, we start thinking about Who made that sky, how powerful He is, and how much He loves us. And those are comforting, soothing thoughts.

Many psalms illustrate how considering nature can calm us. Such psalms follow a pattern:

  • an outpouring of the psalmist’s emotions;
  • consideration of God’s power and love as revealed in nature and His dealings with mankind; and
  • then solace as the songwriter ponders God’s love for him.

What a healthy way to banish negative feelings! Tell God just how we feel and then ponder His power and His love for us until we feel encouraged.

Feeling secure. Psalm 91:14 (AMPC) says, “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him. I will set him on high, because he knows and understands My name [has a personal knowledge of My mercy, love and kindness; trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never forsake him, no, never.) I felt secure just being in my Dad’s presence because I knew his character. I had experienced what he was like and how he would treat me.

These last few months of maintaining victory over depression, I have come to know God’s character better than before because I have pressed in hard to get closer to Him. He has drawn closer to me in response. (James 4:8) I have been truly leaning on Him, depending on Him so much that if He withdrew His support I would fall, just as if you had removed a crutch that I needed.

I think of that as wrestling with God, like Jacob did at Peniel. “And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel [the face of God] saying, For I have seen God face to face, and my life is spared and not snatched away.” (Genesis 32:30, AMPC) For the rest of his life, Jacob limped. I cannot live now without leaning on God for my every step. I limp but I walk with Jesus and I am happy beyond words!Image result for royalty free clip art of leaning on jesus